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Epilepsy, Convulsions, and Seizures
Holistic Approaches

by Mary L. Wulff-Tilford & Gregory L. Tilford

from their book "Herbs for Pets" (see note below)

A seizure can be frightening if you have never seen one before. Some animals may experience a seizure once in their lives and then never again. On the other hand, some may have several seizures every day of their lives.

The causes of seizures are widely varied, ranging from epilepsy to nervous system diseases or injury. In dogs, hyperthermia, poisoning, low blood sugar, nutritional deficiencies, distemper, intestinal parasites, low blood calcium after birthing, liver and kidney disease and thyroid problems may be underlying factors. In cats, convulsions may be linked to feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) toxoplasmosis, lymphosarcoma ( leukemia), thiamine deficiency, or heart disorder.

All cases of seizures involve electrical disturbances of the brain that result in muscle contractions of variable intensity and loss of moter control. Many animals lose consciousness and bladder and bowel control during a seizure, and some may exhibit overly affectionate, frightened, or clingy behavior immediately before an epileptic episode. Digestive disorders, hair loss, neuralgia, and several other problems may also be associated with chronic convulsive disorders.

Conventional therapies involve the use of phenobarbital, potassium bromide, or other anti-convulsant drugs. These measure can be effective but they cannot address the underlying causes of convulsive disorders.



Holistic Approaches

Holistic treatment usually entails a lifelong effort, beginning with a dietary and environmental assessment and adjustment, and continuing with a nutritional supplementation and herbal therapies that focus on normalizing and maintaining nervous system function. All possible environmental causes of or contributors to seizures should be removed from your home. Eliminate all possible contact with antifreeze fluids, household chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, lead based paint, and other neurotoxins from your companion's environment. (These substance are harmful to humans as well)

Animals with epilepsy or other convulsive disorders should be on a natural whole foods diet. Cats with epilepsy, however should not be fed raw fish as it contains thiaminase that breaks down Vitamin B1 (thiamine) Vitamin B1 is essential for healthy nervous system functions. (1) In all animals, dietary supplementation with omega-3 and omega-6 EFA's is important in the development and maintenance of healthy nervous system structure and function. Merritt Naturals makes an excellent EFA supplement for dogs and cats. In addition to EFA's supplementing your companion's diet with essential and non essential vitamins, minerals and digestive enzymes and with probiotics is indicated to assure that the nervous system is getting everything it needs to heal and function optimally. A daily supplementation of 100-300 milligrams of betaine HC1; 50-500 milligrams of dimethylglycine (DMG); 200-1,000 milligrams of taurine ; and 10-200 milligrams of proanthocyanidin is said to be helpful for the epileptic dogs.(2) Recent studies have shown that a ketogenic diet can be effective for treating severe epilepsy in humans, but at this point we can only speculate about the usefulness of this approach in animals


We have seen promising results with the use of skullcap in the treatment of epileptic animals. This nervine is believed to moderate overactive synaptic activity in the higher brain centers where epileptic episodes may be triggered. We have received many good reports about valerian and oatstraw, too, especially when they are combined in equal proportions with skullcap. Although these herbs do not represent a cure for epilepsy, their reported effects include less frequent and less severe episodes. Lemon Balm, ginko, rosemary((3), hop, passionflower and perhaps kava kava (research is promising in the area of controlling seizures in rodents) may also be effective in the treatment of chronic seizures. Additionally, flower essences of vervain or chestnut bud may be helpful in moderating seizures.


First Aid for Seizures

If your animal experiences a seizure, gently protect his head from sharp or hard objects until the episode passes. Don't attempt to restrain the animals body- the muscle contractions of a violent convulsion can be self-injurious if the animal cannot move or jerk about freely. Never place your hand in or near the animal's mouth during a seizure-your companion may be unaware of your presence and may unknowingly bite you with incredible force. If you are indoors during the episode dimming the lights and speaking softly to your companion helps reduce the fear and confusion that sometimes precedes and usually follows the episode. Rescue Remedy rubbed on the ears before, during, and after a seizure sometimes helps moderate the episode and calm the animal. Be sure to take a hearty dose yourself!!!!!




We wish to thank Mary Wulff-Tilford and Gregory Tilford for graciously allowing us to use this excerpt from their wonderful book "Herbs for Pets" published by Bow Tie Press 1999 available at most online bookstores.

1.Sheldon L. Gerstenfeld, The Cat Care Book Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley, 1989).115.

2. Roger V. Kendall, Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine: Principles and Practice, ed Allen M. Schoen and Susan G Wynn ( St Louis, Mo: Mosby,1997),55.

3.To avoid confusion over Rosemary being included in this list of herbs that might prove helpful in controlling epilepsy, I asked the authors why oil of Rosemary is contraindicated for an epileptic and Rosemary (the plant) is not .

Here is their reply:-

It's very important to know that the essential oil of rosemary, which represents a concentrated form of a select number of chemical constituents of the plant, is a very different medicine than the whole-plant, or a preparation of the whole plant. In other words, where rosemary essential oil represents only a few parts of rosemary's chemistry, rosemary tincture or tea represents hundreds of parts of its' chemistry. From a herbalist's perspective the essential oil is closer to being a drug than a herbal medicine. "The "whole plant" is always greater than the sum of its parts......."


Page last update: 06/18/2011

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